Have you ever thought about the difference between unity and uniformity?
They may not seem that different but they are fundamentally different concepts. Unity acknowledges and embraces diversity in all secondary issues for the sake of advancement of the primary issues. Uniformity seeks to eliminate all diversity of the secondary issues at the expense of the primary issues. Unity chooses to focus on the primary issues above all else. Uniformity chooses to focus on the secondary issues above all else. Uniformity believes that diversity in secondary issues is the enemy of the primary issue. Unity sees that diversity in secondary issues can beautifully advance the cause of the primary issue.
Biblical Call To Unity:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. — Philippians 2:1–4
Paul asks the Philippian church to recount the encouragement and love brought into their lives by the Spirit of God. He asks them to remember the affection and sympathy shown to them by God, when He reconciled them to Himself through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Paul is writing that in these truths and experiences we will find the motivation to be unified. So unity is achieved when we are motivated by love. It is achieved through humility and self sacrifice. Uniformity is motivated by fear and control. It is achieved through manipulation and coercion. Quite the opposite of unity.
If we were really honest with ourselves, most if not all of our relational tensions with others stems from our desire for uniformity not unity. We choose uniformity over unity all the time. We think it would be easier if we were like each other in every way. And so we fight for this. “If they could only understand _______?” “Why don’t they see that thought or ideal is hurting people?” How many of us have had similar thoughts?
When we refuse to “count others more significant than yourselves”, it is usually because we are operating in fear. We are afraid that if we give up our crusade for a certain secondary issue that the opposing side will win. All the while selfish ambition, conceit, manipulation and fear advance among Christians.
So in what should we be unified?
The primary issue of the Church is the advancement of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is sharing the Good News that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died a sinners’ death and was gloriously resurrected on the third day. Your sin and ultimate death has been defeated. Jesus has won. He is Savior and Lord. This is the primary message and the Church is develop disciples that reflect the transformational power of this primary message.
The secondary issues of the church should be focused on how they seek the advancement of the primary issue. We should celebrate the diversity of thought, background, ethnicity, gender, and ideology that seeks to, in particular ways, bring to light the hope of the Gospel and make disciples.
Steps Towards Unity:
Recall the grace and mercy that has been extended to you by God through the gift of Jesus Christ and the presence of His Spirit in you.
Humble yourself in a way that would lead you to seek unity among the diversity in the church.
Respond with confession and repentance when the Spirit brings conviction in areas where you are seeking uniformity over unity.
Learn to celebrate the ways in which diversity in the church is bringing to light the hope of the Gospel.